Category Archives: Munich

Things that happened there.

Did You Know? They Eat Porcupine.

Anyone who has been in an international relationship has had the talk about customs and traditions. It tends to happen pretty early on and is part of the we’re-different-but-maybe-not-really-so-different (ie “How weird are you and can I handle it?”) conversation that hopefully eventually leads to you figuring out that although worlds apart you were meant to be together.

Right? Right.

Oliver and I met in the Fall and that led pretty quickly to talk about the winter holidays and Christmas traditions. With him being German, I wasn’t expecting anything too shocking or different to pop up: some real candles on the Christmas tree maybe (yes), celebrating the evening before rather than the morning of (yes), and not following the cult of the Coca-cola Santa (yep, non-Coke Weihnachtsmann).

Everything was pretty much as expected until he floored me with the following: For Christmas dinner, he said, his family ate roasted porcupine.

“Porcupine? Really??,” I asked (did I hear that right?). Continue reading

Stuff I love – Oktoberfest edition

Just for the record, I’m a consumer of more than just wine and too much food. I like stuff, all kinds of stuff.

Since others may like some of that stuff too, I make lists of stuff I like over here. I also park links to them under the tab at the top of the page entitled “I Love Stuff“. (It should be clear how I feel about this stuff by now.)

My latest list is about my favorite options for traditional Bavarian outfits (click on the image below to view). I have three dirndls and I’m feeling about ready for a new one. This could have something to do with the fact that we’re in the middle of Oktoberfest and there are dirndls afoot everywhere.

Admit it girls, you want one.

Admit it girls, you want one.

I wasn’t so sure about dirndls when I first came over. I saw them as a little sexist, but then I relaxed and turned down my overactive feminist radar left over from my college days and saw them for what they are: sexy-yet-strangely-wholesome traditional outfits that show off most women to their best advantage. That’s actually quite remarkable. You can’t say that about most clothes.

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(From the Files) Caro’s Last Stand

When I look back on my life in Munich, this is one of those evenings-turned-weekends that I love to remember.

Each time she comes with us to our favorite restaurant, Carolin tries again. When she orders the Creole Chicken dumplings, Daniel refuses to take the order. He’s certain she’ll hate it, and that’s all the reason he feels he needs. She’s pretty sure he hates it and that’s why he won’t serve it. The problem with that theory is: he’ll give it to anyone else. This particular February evening was no different. She ordered the dumplings again and somehow found herself having the scallops. We’d meant to order one bottle of white wine but ended up with a magnum instead. Daniel was his usual persuasive self.

It was one of those great nights that the place is famous for, among the people who love it.

On any night in winter, if you don’t have a reservation and you aren’t a regular, you’re not likely to do more than stand at the bar and eat olives. This evening was freezing cold and snow was piled high on the streets outside. Inside was so packed that bar stools were recruited as impromptu tables for drink glasses and appetizers. The place has a feeling that’s closer to a private club, or party, than a restaurant. Daniel and David, the quieter, more organized one, enforced a cheerful order.  No matter how full it was, every guest was greeted like a friend or regular, which most of them either were or soon became. Sitting down finally, close to ten, we were content to have gotten a table at all.

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Last Sunday in Munich

photo.jpg, originally uploaded by meganinmunich.

The week leading up to our move to Nuernberg, we biked to Seehaus and sat by the lake, drinking until sunset.

This was our view that day.

A few hours later at dusk a HUGE storm blew in and doused us all with a shower-like downpour, forcing us all to run for cover.

All in all a perfect final day in Munich.

(This was taken with my iPhone and worked over using the Camerabag app, which I highly recommend for Photoshop idiots like myself.)

Change is in the air

Seasons in Germany turn on a dime and some of them can pass before you even had a chance to stop and admire it. Others, like that unwanted party guest who just doesn’t want to take the hint and go the fuck home, stick around way longer than wanted, outstaying their welcome. When they’re finally gone, it’s like the whole region shares a big sigh of relief and gleefully slams the door on that chapter, trying as quickly as possible to forget that it ever even was.

Fall / Winter hang around for what feels like forever, co-mingling so tightly that’s hard to even tell when one stops and the other starts. Spring on the other hand is the uncomfortable one who hates to enter the room alone and instead drags Summer along right behind her and bugs out as soon as she’s had a cocktail and it’s clear that all the guys think Summer’s hotter anyway.

Spring was here briefly (and she may still be hiding in the bathroom) but all signs point to Summer climbing on a table and lifting her skirt to steal the show anytime now.

This post is being brought to you by the gimlet in my left hand causing me to hunt and peck with my right. This is probably the reason for the plunge into party metaphors. It is time for celebration.

For one it’s gorgeous outside. Nothing but blue skies, green trees filled with tweeting birds, warm-but-not-yet-sticky-hot (which means the nastier little bugs haven’t hatched yet to fly in through the open windows and die, their corpses adhering to all the light bulbs and overlooked cobwebs) and a soft breeze keeping everything feeling fresh.

Tomorrow is yet another holiday in Bavaria, which means that everyone has taken Friday off as well and the whole region is settling into holiday mode to enjoy an extended weekend. Everyone is smiling at each other and wishing his/her fellow man/woman a ‘nice weekend’ (a level of friendliness which almost never happens in here). Even the cashier at the grocery store and the lady I’ve never seen before in my building’s elevator wished me a Schoenes Wochenende.

The whole city feels the advent of Spring and in the Ubahn today you could witness this shared feeling manifested in the acres of milky white flesh that was daringly laid bare with tank tops, shorts (sometimes too short), skirts and sandals. Thinking that if all of Munich could be shameless enough to bare the pale jiggliness of it all in public I could too, I came home, changed into the sundress freshly bought from H&M, pulled on my new cowboy boots, threw the doors and windows open wide and set up camp on the balcony with my laptop to have a cocktail and stare at my neighbors.

It’s 15 minutes to eight and the sun is still up in the sky and I’m sitting on my balcony, aforementioned drink in hand, waiting for Oliver to get in and join me. The air smells like bbq.

It’s farewell tour time.

On Monday morning the movers come to pack our stuff and us off to Nuernberg.

And the Axe Falls Swiftly (or how I learned to Keep Calm and Carry On)

It’s been a little late in coming in comparison to others, but the financial “situation” finally hit my company today. This hasn’t been a great day. In addition to being sad it has been quite odd.

Odd, because of the kinds of people that have been let go, how high up the effects are being seen and how little we still know of what this will all mean. Tomorrow will reveal more once the dust settles and we see who is still standing. What is really odd, in a way, is that I myself didn’t have my email get locked down and get a call to go upstairs to be handed my offer to skedaddle.

No I’m still here. This is odd because no one and no level seems to have been spared falling under the scrutiny, being measured, and in the end cut loose or kept. People left today who I thought would never leave. The safety measures one always assumes are in place in any company that has been around long enough for people to build internal alliances and networks were not in place today. Senior people, expert people, people with kids or infirm parents, people who were one step away from general management, friends of friends and friends of someone’s sister or cousin… members of all of these categories left today.

I’m hoping tomorrow it will all be over. For now. Tomorrow, I’ll go into the office and start calling to see who is still picking up and then maybe the next day, when we’ve all counted heads and mourned the missing, we’ll start figuring out how we pick up the dropped balls, shake off remaining sorrow or resentment and get going again. Some are already mumbling, ‘why bother?’. I’m hoping that by tomorrow those people will have realized that although it feels like business has gotten really personal, it is  business after all. And if we don’t figure out how to turn around what we have in our control to do, we’ll be letting our personal problems get in the way of business and will be soon finding ourselves out of this business entirely, clutching settlement offers of our own.

Today I lost subordinates, colleagues, friends and even a boss. I have the office to myself again, at least for now, and a plan for a new set of responsibilities that will allow me to move with my guy to Nberg. I can’t shake the guilty feeling that I saved myself from the axe by voluntarily demoting myself by moving and making a deal for a new position; perhaps if I had quit outright (like I almost did) maybe I could have spared someone else a job they wanted to keep just as it was.

I think the company is handling this better than many, as long they are able to carry out the offers they have made – and we know that was is promised is not always delivered – then this will be at least in that sense humane. But it’s sad and I hate it, and I worry that we haven’t seen the end of it.

I’m having a glass of wine on the balcony of (what is still for now) my apartment, watching the sun go down and thinking of the people I’ve enjoyed working with who are probably not having such a great evening, but who (I hope) are at least making the most out of the fact that they don’t have to worry about much this week other than whether to accept their walking offers and, unlike me, they can can definitely sleep in tomorrow and sleep it off.

About counting chickens and being one

And just where have I been all this time? Cat got my tongue…er typing fingers?

Pretty much.

You know those situations where you’re not sure who’s reading your blog and you’re dying to write about what’s on your mind but you just don’t want those thoughts and feelings falling under the wrong pair of eyes? That’s been partly to blame. I’m also the kind of person who’ll whine, rant and make fun of things when it’s insignificant, but if things get heavy, I clam up and clamp down until I figure my way through it. That about sums up about half of my year last year. What a waste.

Not wanting or feeling I could say much about what’s been going on, I’ve been completely seduced by my iPhone and its Facebook and Twitter apps. I didn’t get social networking until I got this gadget and now I’m checking in several times a day. Rather than write paragraphs on here, I’ve been summing my days up in one-liner updates and loving that freedom to the brief. But I’m ready for a bit more again.

Before anyone leaps to drastic conclusions, the world hasn’t come crashing to a halt. Personally, everything is great. Professionally, there is a lot left to be desired. Being an expat who immigrated for love and not career, I’ve worked my way to a pretty decent situation. But the fact that I am an expat who isn’t fluent in written German, (and still falls back on English in meetings when push comes to shove) but specialized in an area requiring good communication skills, means that my choices of employment are limited. I’ve had a good run where I am but this last year hasn’t been inspiring. There’s been a lot of stress and differing expectations, some butting heads and some hands thrown up in the air in exasperation. I like having a job and have strong pride issues about pulling my own weight and being independent, but at some point the question has to be asked, “what am I doing all this for?” Would I be happier somewhere else? And now the doubt creeps in. Can I find another job?

If this was the ‘homeland’, I’d feel a lot better about floating my resume around and seeing what happened. Thanks to the finance crisis – a term I am already sick of – I’m a bit concerned. ‘First hired, first fired’ is a term that readily comes to mind. Where I am, if push came to shove, there’s at least one person ahead of me in the line to walk the plank.

Looks like I may be jumping anyway though. We’ve been apartment hunting. Olli’s all but signed a contract and it looks like we’re moving. I say “looks like” because experience has shown me not to count any chickens until contracts are signed and sealed. This time it won’t be China, but it will be a change of accent and local dialect. It’s far enough away that a commute is really out of the question, but close enough where we’ve still looked for ways that we could swing staying (really impossible though). I think I know what I’m going to do, and I’m almost sure I’m ok with it. The hard part will be going through with it and finding out. I’m not loving my job much, but I really don’t love my chances for something new right now. This will be a smaller town, not as multicultural or international. A break for a month or two would be great actually, but only as long as I really felt it wasn’t forever, and a little part of me is worried.

It’s finally time to rip off the bandaid and start finding out. We’re a few weeks away from a countdown, but it’s pretty clear that our remaining time in Munich is limited.